Feels like a UTI but isn't...
UTIs are super common—the second most common infection in the U.S. However, there's a lot of "lookalike" issues that share the same symptoms as a UTI but are not actually the same thing. For instance, IC and bladder prolapse can seem like a UTI but are actually very different. Here’s a roundup of a few things that are commonly mistaken for UTIs.
What’s a UTI and why is it so easily mistaken?
A UTI is an infection that's usually caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract through the urethra. Bacteria reach the bladder where they can multiply and cause an infection. E. coli is responsible for causing up to 90% of diagnosed UTIs, particularly those affecting the bladder. UTIs can be easily treated with antibiotics.
Symptoms for a urinary tract infection include:
- Strong urge to urinate, even if you’ve already gone
- Need to urinate for frequently
- Pain or burning sensation when trying to urinate; in your lower abdomen or pelvic area
- Odd-smelling or dark colored urine that doesn’t look normal
These symptoms are also similar to a number of other health issues that affect the urogenital area. However, there are differences in the causes, some of the symptoms, and the treatments needed for each case that make them different from UTIs. It’s important to be able to distinguish what you have to get the appropriate treatment.
Here’s our round-up of some things that are commonly mistaken for UTIs
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of fungal yeast in the vagina, a bacteria called candida albicans. Unlike yeast infections, UTIs typically affect urination while the main symptoms of a yeast infection are itching and irritation in the vaginal area. However many women also experience pain, irritation, and even inflammation during and after urination. Yeast infections can also be symptoms of an STD, so it’s important to get tested and check with your doctor if you experience signs of a yeast infection.
Interstitial cystitis (IC), or painful bladder syndrome, has many similar symptoms to a UTI, including the strong urge to urinate (or more frequently) and pain in your lower abdomen. But while UTIs are caused by bacterial infections, an IC can be caused by a number of things like abnormalities in the bladder lining, overactive/ inflamed pelvic nerves, or by chronically holding in urine. Treatment for an IC depends on the cause of the IC.
Bladder prolapse is a result of deterioration of the front bladder wall, which can weaken and cause a number of problems like urinary difficulties like urine leakage and discomfort related to said bladder issues. Bladder prolapse happens more frequently with age, and are often associated with menopause. Unlike UTIs which are caused by bacterial infections and can be treated with antibiotics, a bladder prolapse cannot heal alone and requires a diagnosis from your doctor to determine the type of treatment.
Ovarian cysts are sacs of fluid growing in or on the ovaries, many of which are benign. Large cysts, on the other hand, can cause symptoms that affect the reproductive system and the urinary tract. Cysts can press into the bladder and cause discomfort as well as urinary symptoms such as increasing the urge to urinate. Because cysts put pressure on the bladder and urinary system, they can potentially cause UTIs. Cysts mostly resolve on their own.
STIs (like herpes or chlamydia)
Sexually transmitted infections that affect the urogenital tract can produce similar symptoms to UTIs, such as pain when urinating or lower abdominal pain. But while UTIs are more associated with changes in urination, symptoms like vaginal blisters or rashes, painful intercourse, nausea or fever, and other bodily pain or sores can indicate an STI.
A UTI can occur because of bacteria spread through sex, but it is not the same as an STI. If you experience other symptoms that are more associated with an STI, you should get tested to make sure that it isn’t a sexually transmitted infection.
How do I make sure I don’t get a UTI?
Dealing with a UTI is an ordeal, especially if you’re worried if your urinary tract infection is something else entirely. Luckily it’s easy to be preventative and avoid UTIs altogether.
Here are some tips to help prevent getting a UTI:
- Drink water and pee frequently. Stay hydrated so that you’re flushing the bacteria from your bladder; this gives them less time to cling to your urinary tract which is needed to start an infection.
- Take probiotics and vitamins. Studies have shown that vitamin D is effective in preventing UTIs in women. Deficiencies in vitamin D, Zinc, and Magnesium can be solved with vitamin supplements, all of which can improve your overall health.
- Be prepared when you have sex. UTIs are common after sexual intercourse when bacteria are exchanged. Avoid barrier contraceptives like diaphragms as birth control, which can increase your risk of getting an infection. Urinate before and after sex to help flush out bacteria from sexual intercourse
- Take Uqora before and after sex to reduce the chance of getting an infection. Uqora creates proven effective solutions so you can stop UTIs before they start.